Muslims who launch a shoe at another person may not be committing a crime because the practice is Islamic symbolism, guidance from the Metropolitan Police says.
The rules are likely to be contrasted to police action taken against a Christian couple in Liverpool who were arrested and prosecuted because they verbally criticised Islam in a debate about religion.
At the weekend it emerged that a Muslim man charged with violent disorder for throwing a shoe at a protest had his case dismissed.
The court accepted that shoe-throwing was “simply a ritual form of protest”, according to the Muslim man’s lawyer.
Christians, Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang were charged with a religiously aggravated public order offence and faced a £5,000 fine and criminal records after the debate with a Muslim.
They were found innocent of any wrongdoing by Liverpool Magistrates’ Court in December after a judge ruled that the complainant’s evidence was not reliable.
But the couple is still facing massive financial upheaval, even to the point of having to put their hotel, Bounty House, up for auction.
The news about the Met’s concession came to light following the case against 21-year-old Aquib Salim being dropped.
He is among more than 70 people, mostly Muslims, who were charged with violent disorder following Gaza protests outside the Israeli embassy last year.
Chris Holt, Mr Salim’s solicitor, said his client was likely to escape with a suspended sentence for another offence of throwing a stick at police – an offence to which he pleaded guilty.
“The court accepted that the earlier shoe-throwing incident was simply a ritual form of protest and therefore not a criminal act of violence,” Mr Holt said.
Muslims believe shoes, and in particular the soles of shoes, are unclean.
In 2008 an Iraqi journalist threw a shoe at President George W. Bush during a press conference.
Following that incident the Met Police told protesters of its stance on shoe throwing, The Sunday Times reported.
Since then Downing Street has been pelted with shoes in another anti-Israeli protest last year and three policemen sustained minor injuries in another related protest in Edinburgh.